We Cannot Allow Senator Heitkamp to Deny Americans Gun Rights by Putting Them on a Secret Government List

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp talks about the prospect of temporarily housing refugee children at the Grand Forks Air Force Base during a recent visit to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. p hoto by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In a letter to the editor today someone claiming to be an attorney (who appears to be using the name of a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice as a nom de plume) suggests my objection to using the federal no-fly list to deny people their gun rights is driven by partisanship.

“Sen. Heidi Heitkamp wants the government to be able to deny you constitutionally-protected rights not because you’ve been convicted of a crime, or found to be incompetent or dangerous through some legal process, but rather because the government has decided to put you on a list,” I wrote in a column earlier this month.

I am extremely dismayed that our government would seek to deny or inhibit any of our rights – be they the right to free travel, keep and bear arms, worship, speak, etc. – simply by putting us on secret lists based on secret criteria with little room to appeal.

“Do not be fooled by Port’s attempt to characterize use of the no-fly list as a basis for refusing firearm sales as some novel, unprecedented violation of due process,” William O. Douglas writes in rebuttal.

The crux of the letter writer’s argument seems to be rooted in the notion that I don’t object to using the no-fly list to obstruct travel rights. “If he is alarmed by the use of that list as a basis for restricting Second Amendment rights, therefore, he should be equally alarmed that the list exists in the first place,” he writes.

But I am alarmed by that.

I am extremely dismayed that our government would seek to deny or inhibit any of our rights – be they the right to free travel, keep and bear arms, worship, speak, etc. – simply by putting us on secret lists based on secret criteria with little room to appeal.

The no-fly list is odious public policy antithetical to due process rights. That Senator Heidi Heitkamp and others would seek to compound that abuse of due process by expanding the use of the no-fly list from obstructing travel to obstructing gun rights is worthy of criticism.

And my criticism is hardly partisan. The ACLU, hardly a partisan right-wing organization, also believes that no-fly lists are contrary to due process rights. “The government contends that it can place Americans on the No Fly List who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of conduct that the government concedes ‘may or may not occur,’” the ACLU wrote in a letter opposing Heitkamp’s legislation in 2016.

To review, my criticism of Senator Heitkamp on this front is so partisan I find myself on the same side as the ACLU.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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